Countermemories of desire

Exploring gender, anti-racism, and homonormativity in Shamim Sarif ’s The World Unseen (2001) and I Can’t Think Straight (2008)

in Queer Muslim diasporas in contemporary literature and film
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The first chapter in Part II offers an exploration of Shamim Sarif’s first novel, The World Unseen and its 2008 film adaptation, and of I Can’t Think Straight (2008) and its eponymous film version. The narratives are approached in light of intersecting issues of race, ethnicity, religion, and sexuality in apartheid South Africa and contemporary Britain. It is argued that Sarif’s depiction of the romantic relationship between two Muslim women in South Africa, and of a British Muslim woman and a Christian Jordanian woman of Palestinian heritage in contemporary Britain, challenge the Western stereotype of submissive Muslim and Arab women and of their male relatives as universally patriarchal. Sarif’s reinscription of a female homosexual vocabulary onto Arab-Islamicate cultures offers an antidote the erasure of female Muslim homosexuality in contemporary Islamic discourses. The chapter probes Sarif’s critique of Muslim homophobia. It also suggests that Sarif’s configuration of same-sex desire in relation to the dominant Western model of ‘coming out’, is homonormative; yet, despite the limited vistas offered by her characters’ middle-class perspectives, Sarif’s deployment of queer female bodies forge clandestine countermemories in the face of discursive suppression of Muslim female homosexuality.

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